Militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) today released all 46 Indian nurses from their confinement in Iraq's Mosul city, offering a big relief to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre.
These nurses who are now in the safe custody of Indian consulate officials there, will be taken to the Erbil airport from where they will be flown back to India, Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy said after meeting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj this morning.
The nurses would be reaching Erbil later today and will be flown to Kochi tomorrow in a special plane.
A special flight of an Air India Boeing 777 aircraft to bring back the 46 nurses and other Indians stranded in strife-torn Iraq.
The Boeing 777 (Long Range), with a seating capacity for about 300 passengers, would shortly take off from Delhi's IGI Airport for Erbil in north Iraqi region of Kurdistan and is likely to return to Kochi on its way back, civil aviation ministry officials said.
Air India has kept three wide-body planes and crew on standby for evacuating Indian nationals from Iraq and is awaiting the government's instructions to launch the flights.
The nurses who were forcibly moved by suspected Sunni militants from Tikrit reached the Iraqi city of Mosul last night.
The operation is being monitored by a crisis management group headed by Sushma Swaraj with support from the Intelligence Bureau, RAW and NSA.
A total of 25 Indian officials are now deployed in four Iraqi cities - Baghdad, Najaf, Basra and Karbala - to oversee rescue of stranded Indians.
So far, about 900 Indians had been provided air ticket to leave Iraq, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
A total of 1,500 Indians were registered with Indian authorities to leave Iraq.
Some Indians working in Iraq had not decided whether they want to leave or not.
"We are committed to helping every Indian national," the spokesman said.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had on Monday held a high-level meeting with Indian envoys to Gulf countries to chalk out a strategy to evacuate about 10,000 Indian nationals estimated to be in Iraq.
On the other stranded Indian nationals, an external affairs ministry spokesperson said, ''At this stage, we are working with them, their companies and the agents who sent them there, to help in bringing them back by commercial flight.''
The first phase of repatriation by commercial flights will begin by tomorrow or latest by flight availability.